糞尿譚 💩 (Miscellaneous Book Club - unscheduled)

I just wanted to add that ごりょんさん seems to be short for 御寮人さん, meaning mistress or madam. (My IME suggested this to me and I think it makes sense).
Also, 卯平 is a first name, so his wife‘s name is not 卯平.


@omk3 I’ve completed the explanation of the missing part (basically: it’s a fixed expression saying that he could not do anything good for her).

Oh dang, I slightly wondered why the name started with ご but then did not think further. Thanks!


Finished the first paragraph! It was…exhausting. Some of that is psychological, because reading without an end in sight is somewhat demotivating, but there are also sentences that seem to consist entirely of unknown vocabulary, and there are sentences so long that I lose the plot before I finish them. I don’t want to give up yet though. It’s only going to get easier, won’t it? :sweat_smile:

Seriously though, books from that long ago can be tricky even in someone’s native language. Lots of words will have changed usage or be obsolete, and the circumstances described are more or less “foreign” too, so that doesn’t help either.

And after I spoke about unknown vocabulary and long sentences, here’s a very short sentence of very simple words, that I’m not sure what to make of:
Deepl says “Just wait and see”. Is that it?
Edit: Yes, it is. Once again I failed to realized that the whole thing was a set expression: 今に見ていろ


Finished paragraph 2! In the OP it is marked as paragraph 2 and 3, but I think they are one paragraph, broken by the image of the sign.
Speaking of the sign, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it:

This paragraph flowed a little more easily. The sentences were shorter, but there was still tons of unknown vocabulary for me. My understanding is still a little fuzzy, but I don’t have the energy to go over it more carefully. I’ll plough on and maybe reread if I notice I’m missing essential information.

People names (I think):
李聖学 (probably Korean?)

Cultural references:
三勝 and 半七 were the protagonists of a (real?) love story from the Edo period. It was turned into a kabuki and joruri play. The 酒屋之段 is a famous scene from the play.

I don’t know what to make of this. Donogoo Tonka is a 1936 German film based on a French play. I don’t quite understand how it is used in the book. Is it just used to refer to a Frenchman?

Place names:
These places can be found on Google maps, but they’re all over Japan. I’m still not clear where the story takes place. I only know there’s sea, a river, mountains, and a lot of dust.

As for the plot itself:

Our hero doesn’t seem well liked at all. I wonder how he does business at all. I’m also confused on what kind of “manure” he collects. I think I understood that he gets it from the city and sells it to farmers to use in fields. You can’t use human waste in fields as far as I know, but do they really have so many cows and horses in the city?
Also not sure about the situation with his wife. He doesn’t return home out of choice, or because his wife doesn’t want him there any more? Is it made clear and I missed it?


It’s read right to left:

Maybe this clears up some confusion?

I still haven’t read paragraph 2 yet :sweat_smile: might get to it in the next few days.


:exploding_head: I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!!! Even while wondering why 電話 was written as 話電 back then… :flushed:
Thanks so much! Yes, perfectly clear now!


I haven’t finished reading it myself, but here’s an article on exactly this practice, which apparently used to be popular in Japan:
A History of Human Waste as Fertilizer - JSTOR Daily

I think it’s a mix of both. He feels uncomfortable at home and his wife resents him for wasting his good fortune (apparently he at least had a solid way to make a living as a farmer or something from his family) and leaving the family poor in his business endeavors, as well as leaving her alone to take care of everything else.

That’s my take on it, we haven’t heard much of what the wife really thinks, but she sure seemed hostile.

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I know that they belong together, but in other cases this might not be as easy to tell up-front, therefore I went with the technical “whenever there is a line break, I will count this as a new paragraph” definition :woman_shrugging:
Later we will encounter one paragraph that just consists of one short (no, really!) sentence, so that clearly doesn’t deserve the label of “paragraph” (in the sense of “chapter in disguise”) either, but I just stuck with that technical definition. Please feel free to group several paragraphs in your discusssion.


Currently reading the article I linked above. I’m finding it to be quite interesting! The system of human waste collecting survive until very recently!

Really puts things into perspective.

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Well… not only in Japan but also in Germany :joy_cat:
My granny (who lived next door) had a cesspit that would be emptied maybe twice a year by a vacuum truck, and that was in the 70’s. Her house probably got connected to the sewage system in the late 70’s or early 80’s only.
sorry I searched for a picture of such a truck but couldn’t find any :cry:

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I hadn’t known about that at all! I mean I knew that waste collection happened differently many years ago, but not so recently.

Do you know if it was used for anything, or just somewhat cleansed and disposed of into the sea and such?

Something like this?

There are still many (mostly remote) areas in Greece that are not (yet?) connected to the main sewage system. In those areas, each house has a cesspool that needs regular emptying. But then the waste goes to the same place as the rest of the sewage, as far as I know, to undergo sewage treatment. I never heard of it being used in farming, and I was under the impression that only waste from herbivores can be used as fertilizer.
Thanks for the article, @Belerith, I’ll start reading it right now, it looks very interesting indeed!

Edit: I’m loving the article!



I was so confused when he started talking about the コークス工場!

In German, Koks also means cocaine, so at first I was like „A what factory??“
The English dictionary only listing „coke“ as the definition certainly didn’t help either :joy:

I had to read the Japanese definition before I remembered that Koks in German also has another meaning.


I think in this case it’s used as a descriptor for the 部落 that was only created because of the rumors that there was gold to be found in the river? Which then kind of turned out to be not true?

I tried to read some more about the plot of this movie, and in the movie, Donogoo Tonka is a non-existent city that some fraud invented to scam a professor? The professor believes him and talks about the city in one of his publications. Once he realizes that the city doesn’t exist and that he was tricked, he asks his friends (?) to found the city for real to cover up his mistake. So they spread more rumors about the existence of the city, but it’s turning into a hotspot for speculating bankers, because there is also a rumor that there is a mountain of gold in Donogoo Tonka (basically another scam). In the end the city actually gets founded though. :woman_shrugging:t3:

It’s all a bit confusing, but I think the relevant part is that it’s a previously not existing city being founded on the basis of rumors (by a Frenchman) only.


I have a paragraph between the ones you numbered 5 and 6 at 30%, @NicoleRauch - the next paragraph then starts with 市内.

Anyway, that was a tough part to read. The sudden POV change as well as the political talk were really unexpected. I’m sure I didn’t get all of that except that they’re part of different parties, and that 友田’s party isn’t a big fan of how 彦太郎 got all the city buildings. I liked how the onsen and tattoes were described though, as well as the mood!

In general, I really like the detailed, colorful descriptions we get here. :slight_smile: I don’t know what it is, but it’s surprisingly easy to imagine this life that’s so removed from what I know.

Oh thanks! I figured I’d have overlooked a few :upside_down_face:
I‘ll add it to the list. Or you can do it if you want - I‘ve turned the OP into a wiki.

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So you did! I added it, thanks! :slight_smile:

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Finished paragraph 4 yesterday! It felt like an enjoyable read of only medium difficulty, which goes to show how bad my brain fog of the previous days must have been - I had started the paragraph and given up at least twice. From @Belerith 's article I got the impression that families would sell their “night soil” to people like our protagonist, and he in turn would sell it to the farmers, but from the book it seems that he is (reluctantly) paid to collect it instead? So does he get paid by both farmers and households? :thinking:

That dream though! Very vivid! :rofl:
And does our man survive solely on sake? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Vocabulary-wise, today I learned that 毛頭 does not mean “hairy head” or something, but not in the least. Why and how??
And that 位 is also a counter for ghosts (love that there even is a counter for ghosts). Not saying that’s how it’s used in the text (unsure actually), but it was used in enough unexpected places for me to look it up.
From the next paragraph I just started, I also loved 松籟:the sound of wind through pine trees.

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I don’t go here but I got curious and looked it up anyway :joy: 「毛頭」の意味とは?読み方は?使い方から類義語まで例文付きで解説 – スッキリ

「毛頭」が日本に伝わったのは室町時代です。日本人が「毛頭」を「髪の毛の先端」 の意味にとらえ、髪の毛の先端がきわめて細いことから、「毛頭」が「毛の先ほども」「少しも」という意味になりました。

So from that and the other dictionary stuff I saw, it seems like hair - particular the tips of hair - is a pretty common metaphor for extremely small amounts, which makes sense to me at least! Not that I’ve really seen it before just now I don’t think, but hey the more you know :man_shrugging: anyway as you were :joy:


Thank you, that was super interesting! Bookmarked the website too, might come in useful again, you never know…

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